A horse is a horse … of course
February 12, 2010
I was six years old when that famous talking horse, Mr. Ed, first aired on television. It was 1961. As I remember it, my brother and I threw pillows down to use as cushions and plopped ourselves squarely in front of the black and white TV set. For the next five years through the entire running season, my brother and I repeated the same behavior every week. I became captivated with the show the very first episode.
During that half hour, we watched as Wilbur, the architect that owns Mr. Ed, discovers his horse can talk. Throughout the 143 total episodes, we laugh until our sides hurt as Mr. Ed tried to do everything humans do. He flies an airplane, drives a delivery truck and even rides a surfboard.
The last episode portrays Wilbur pleading with Mr. Ed to stick to being a horse. But Mr. Ed has made up his mind he’s going to college to become a doctor. Oh, how I hated to see Mr. Ed go, but who was I to stand in the way of his future? In my 11-year-old mind, I would like him to be my doctor.
We had horses on the ranch where I grew up in the Sandhills of Nebraska, but not like Mr. Ed. Our horses were paints. Mr. Ed was a slick, beautiful palomino. Mr. Ed had been trained by Les Hilton who had apprenticed under Will Rogers, the Cherokee American cowboy turned Hollywood star. Our horses were trained by my dad somewhere between calving and haying – anytime he might fit in a spare moment. And Mr. Ed could talk! No matter how I tried to teach our motley crew to talk, the best I got was whinnies as I trudged away with an empty grain bucket.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I loved our hoses just as much as Wilbur loved Mr. Ed. I seemed to have an affinity toward them. Even though they didn’t talk, I knew they understood every childhood problem I discussed with them. One or the other would nuzzle their warm nose into my shoulder when I recounted my disappointment of being left behind as Grandpa took my brother fishing. Another would lean down and let me smother its neck in tears when I found my blue parakeet lying stiffly on the bottom of his cage.
I learned to love that distinct smell of horse as I buried my face in their soft coats. As clear as if they were talking they were telling me things would be alright, and no matter what … they would love me.
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It was no surprise to anyone that I latched onto the baby colt Dad’s saddle horse blessed us with when I was four years old. She was the sweetest thing we had on the farm right then, so naturally we called her Candy. I’m not sure who was more proud of the little filly, her mom or me.
The horses on our ranch had a lot of roaming space. Guess they had one over on Mr. Ed in that department. Mr. Ed did have two doors out of his stable, one going into Wilbur’s office and the other into a small garden area. Clever Mr. Ed became adept at opening these doors himself. But this is really not what a horse considers freedom. Mr. Ed soon became bored of looking at Wilbur’s drawings and smelling a few flowers. Wilbur, attentive to his horse’s need had a TV installed for Mr. Ed to watch. I’m thinking he probably watched Bonanza and dreamed he was Little Joe’s horse … racing away from Indians or sneaking up on cattle rustlers.
As I got older I was allowed to venture out onto “our Ponderosa” by myself. By this time I had my own horse. Ginger and I had full rein (pardon the pun) of over 1,800 acres. Unlike Mr. Ed, my dream came true. Ginger and I explored endless rolling hills, crossed calm winding streams, and sometimes successfully snuck up on deer grazing in the plum thickets. I often pretended I was an Indian princess out scouting for buffalo. I would ease Ginger quietly to the top of a hill and we would hide behind a large yucca. We would look out across the draw and there they were … an entire herd. Dad’s Angus cows weren’t as wild as buffalo, but my imagination served me well.
Once I left the ranch as a young adult, I never owned a horse again. However, I am fortunate to live next to two friendly horses, a sorrel and a black and white paint. When I am feeling a bit more nostalgic than usual and know a good whiff of horse smell will trigger some fond memories, I trek down to the corner where our properties border. These two horse are always willing to oblige. And when it comes to the smell of a horse, we all know … a horse is a horse of course, of course.